Softball - Mon, May 24, 2004
Decatur, Ala. -- The No. 18 nationally ranked Saint Xavier University softball team won its first game of the 2004 NAIA National Championship Friday, 3-0, against host Athens State University (Ala.) at the Wilson Morgan Softball Complex in Decatur, Ala. Unfortunately, the Cougars fell just short in its next two match-ups ending their season Saturday in a 5-4 loss to the University of Rio Grande (Ohio) after falling in their second game Friday, 5-2, to 2003 runner-up and No. 4 ranked University of Mobile (Ala.).

In the game against Athens State, freshman rightfielder Nicole Barker (Chicago Heights, Ill./Marian Catholic) hit a first-inning, one-out double to shallow left-center and later scored on a wild throw by ASU second baseman Nicole James. SXU got another run in the bottom of the second when sophomore shortstop Colleen Kilduff (Hickory Hills, Ill./Stagg) hit a RBI single to left field that brought freshman centerfielder Marie Barker (Chicago Heights, Ill./Marian Catholic) across home plate to put the Cougars ahead, 2-0.

Junior Samantha Eyman (Palos Hills, Ill./Stagg) scored Saint Xavier's third and final run of the game in the sixth inning while pitch-running for sophomore first baseman Megan Stluka (Beecher, Ill./Beecher). Eyman scored the run from third on a RBI single by sophomore pinch-hitter Rhea Minas (Midlothian, Ill./Bremen). Senior righthander Stacie Eschmann (Peoria, Ill./Richwoods) earned the complete game shutout win allowing only three hits and striking out eight.

In SXU's next game against No. 4 Mobile, the Rams jumped out to an early 3-0 lead scoring all three runs in the bottom of the second inning. Saint Xavier answered with two runs of its own in the top of the third inning when junior second baseman Maura Ryan (Kankakee, Ill./Bishop McNamara) hit a two-out, two-RBI single to centerfield. Unfortunately, the Cougar offense could not produce any further runs and Mobile scored two more in the fourth inning to secure the victory. Sophomore rightie Jessica Wilson (Munster, Ind./Munster) took the loss on the mound for Saint Xavier pitching three and a third innings and allowing four runs (three earned) on six hits, while fanning two.

In Saturday's game against Rio Grande (Ohio), the Redwomen scored four, unanswered runs over the first five innings before SXU finally put a run on the scoreboard in the top of the sixth. The Cougars scored their first run of the game on a single to left field by Minas that scored Ryan from third base. After holding Rio Grande scoreless in the bottom of the sixth, Saint Xavier staged a rally attempt that fell just short.

A one-out, RBI single to centerfield by Ryan narrowed URG's lead to two, 4-2, before a passed ball put runners on second and third and the go-ahead run at home plate. Junior outfielder Melissa Romano (Chicago Heights, Ill./Homewood-Flossmoor) hit a single to centerfield that scored Nicole Barker from third, but Ryan was thrown out at home plate by Rio Grande centerfielder Krista Tucker while attempting to score from second. A fly ball to right field in the next at-bat ended both the game and SXU's season with a final 4-3 score.

Saint Xavier University ended its season with an overall record of 36-24.